The Mauritanian

·2-min read

The Mauritanian scored five BAFTA nominations – including Best Film and Outstanding British Film – but came away with none for the Oscars, which would suggest that it has divided viewers and voters.

The film tells the story of Mohamedou Ould Salahi (Tahar Rahim), who was detained in Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba without charge from 2002 until his release in 2016. He was suspected to be the head recruiter for 9/11 in Germany, a member of Al-Qaeda, and a friend of Osama Bin Laden.

After a German newspaper reports that Salahi is imprisoned in February 2005, American lawyer Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and her associate Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley) decide to take up his case and pursue habeas corpus proceedings so a court can determine if his detention is lawful. However, they face many obstacles, such as the military heavily redacting almost every piece of useful information they need.

The facts of what happened to Salahi are enough to make anybody angry, upset, and sick to their stomachs, yet Kevin Macdonald‘s film somehow doesn't manage to evoke those emotions. Viewers should come away feeling more emotional and outraged than they do. You'll certainly be affected by the scenes depicting Salahi being tortured as these are distressing and uncomfortable to watch but the film spends more time with Hollander and her fight to get paperwork clearance to pursue his case rather than with Salahi.

Rahim is astonishing in this role and thoroughly deserves his BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations. He impressively portrays a person who is desperate, hopeless, and on their lowest ebb. He elevates the material and makes the torture scenes all the more devastating.

Foster is well cast as the polished and professional Nancy, who doesn't seem to be affected by representing an accused terrorist, while Woodley’s Teri is the opposite – she is morally conflicted about the case and is feeling the pressure. Benedict Cumberbatch provides solid support as military prosecutor, Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch, who stands by his morals and Christian beliefs when confronted with the distressing information he uncovers.

Given the subject matter, The Mauritanian is nowhere near as gripping as it should be. If you want a shocking, outrage-provoking film about the U.S. government's use of torture on suspected terrorists after 9/11 then you should watch The Report (2019) instead.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from Thursday 1st April.